The Myth

Laius, the son of Labdacus, married Jocasta and reigned over Thebes. Being frustrated over his until then unsuccessfull efforts to produced offspring, he asked the Oracle of Delphi for help. The Oracle told him he was lucky as his son was bount to kill his father. This in fact was part of the curse Labdacus called upon himself by abducting an raping Chrysippus, the bastard son of Pelops, who killed himself of shame afterwards. Thereafter, he would not sleep with his wife without letting her know why. This in fact made her so angry, she made him drunk and one thing leading to another he eventually slept with her. Being able to conceal her pregnancy for nine months Jocasta gave her son to a foster mother. However, Laius stole his son from this foster mother, hit a nail through his ear and left him at the mountain Kithairon.

However the godesses of fortune decided to help him. According to one version of the story shepards from Corinth found him and brought him to their king Polybos. Since he did not have any children he decided to adopt young Oedipus and treat him as a son. One day, when the young Oidipus visited the Oracle of Delphi himself. The Oracle would not even let him state his question and instead scream at him: “Be gone you animal! You will kill your father and marry your mother.” Afraid of this prophecy he wanted to get as far away from his thoughtof parents in Corinth.

Oidipus an the Sphinx

On his way at the isthmus between Delphi and Daulis he met Laius who was traveling in a chariot while Oidipus travelled by foot. When Laius demanded him to step aside and he remaind in place, Laius asked his driver to go on regardless of Oidipus. While the chariot drove by, it hurt Oidipus foot. In rage he killed Laius’ driver and bount him to his chariot and made the horses run so they would drag Laius to death. On his way to Thebes, he passed the Sphinx, which stopped every traveller who wanted to enter Thebes and asked him a riddle. If not answered correctly, the beast would eat the traveler. Oidipus however knew the answer to her riddle. “What animal walks fristly on four, later on two and at the end on three legs and is the weakest when it walks on four.” He answered “a human” and the Sphinx left her spot at the mountain of Phikion. Thebes was freed and Oidipus was welcomed as a hero. In fact the people of Thebes even declared him their new kind. Therefore he also married Jocasta, his truthful mother.

Thebes was hit heavily by the plague. When the people asked the Oracle of Delphie, it responded, that the raging disease would only cease when the murderer of Laius was expelled from the city. Oidipus not knowing who he had killed, declared the murderer to be expelled when found. Teiresias, the wellknown seer declared that the city would be freed when a man grown from the earth died for the city of Thebes. Menoikeus, Iokast’s father, was one of those grown from the earth when Kadmos planted teeth of a snake in the ground. The city praised his decisiveness. Teiresias however uttered the prophecy that he was not the man the gods intended. He went to Jocasta and told her the man the gods had chosen to die was her son and husband Oidipus, who also killed her former husband. Only when Periboia, Polybos’ wife confirmed the adoption of Oidipus did they belief Teiresias. Iokast hanged herself in shame and Oidipus blinded himself with one of her hair clasps. He was expelled from the city by Creon, the brother of Iokast. Before he left the city he cursed two of his son/brothers Eteokles and Polyneikes. They had sacrifieced him unworthy parts of a bull. Antigone, his daughter follwed him faithfully until Kolonon in Attika where the Erinyen chased him to death. He was burrowed by Theseus and Antigone.

His Endeavors to find out the truth about the root of Thebe’s misfortune he is forcing those who do to speak up. Thereby, he is unfortunately causing his own downfall.1

  1. Sophocles; Oidipus Rex ↩︎